Texas A&M Theatre Arts Focuses On Sustainability
COLLEGE STATION – Some might call the people in the scene shop of the theatre program at Texas A&M University "neat freaks.” Others might consider their Zero Landfill Scene Shop Initiative merely common sense. And in times of economic belt-tightening, the initiative just might also be construed as economical.
All of the above are secondary outcomes of the initiative’s real purpose.
“The Zero Landfill Scene Shop Initiative is a goal of diverting all of the waste stream from the Department of Performance Studies from the landfill,” says Justin Miller, instructional assistant professor of theatre arts at Texas A&M.
Performance Studies in the College of Liberal Arts builds all of its own scenery for its theatre productions, creating educational opportunities for students to design and construct play settings. From these constructions, students and faculty have begun a process to reduce and ultimately eliminate the amount of waste that is a part of the temporary nature of scene construction.
“Many of our changes have been about raising awareness,” says Miller.
For example, the students and faculty keep their lumber and materials organized in a way that makes it easier to use scraps from a previous project before cutting fresh material. They also use screws instead of staples, allowing them to disassemble items after shows are over and save the parts for future projects.
They’re also learning to use their paint more wisely by using a stock of colors that allows them to mix any color they need in controlled amounts, an improvement because it gives them more flexibility and produces less waste.
The Theatre Arts Program, part of the Department of Performance Studies, has partnered with Brazos Valley Recycling to initiate its sustainability efforts. Brazos Valley Recycling recycles wood scrap to be made into mulch. Considering that the majority of the constructed scenes are made from wood, this has reduced the amount of waste produced significantly.
“While [sustainability] is a goal that may take a few years and some research to accomplish, I think we are off to a good start,” says Miller.